The Best and Easiest to Use Spray Gun

I've been holding out on buying a spray gun for painting because it always felt like an overwhelming purchase. Where would I keep all the required stuff - air compressors, tubes, funnels, including the gun and who knows what else? And why would I spend hundreds of dollars on the gun alone when I can just brush on paint or buy a can of aerosol spray paint? Then I was faced with painting a sea of doors in our new house and I thought I'd look into it a little more. Turns out I was way over-thinking it!

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The highest rated spray gun on Amazon is this little guy called the Critter Spray Gun. It looked simple enough to operate and it cost less than $50. A total steal. So I bought it and now I love it.

The great thing about the Critter is you need an air compressor to spray at only 90 PSI, so you don't have to invest in a crazy heavy-duty and huge compressor. I have this one and I like it a lot. It's bigger than I need to operate the critter gun, but I needed it for nailing in the floors and trim too so I went with something more on the heavy-duty side. You could buy one of those tiny portable compressors though and it would work great!

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(More after the jump...)
But the BEST part about the Critter spray gun is that it uses 16 oz Mason jars to hold the paint. This makes clean up a breeze compared to most of the spray guns out there but also makes it really easy to prep a big spray job. Rather than filling the same jar over and over again, I filled six jars with paint (diluted a little with distilled water like the guy at Benjamin Moore suggested I do) and could just quickly change out the jars when needed.

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When the Critter's attached to an air compressor, there's a steel straw on the pencil-looking thing that creates a vacuum and pulls the paint up and out. And then the air compressor blows air out of the gun looking part and sprays the atomized paint coming out of the pencil-looking part. It is so simple. And truly, it works really well. 

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I sprayed these doors black for my mudroom in about an hour (front and back). It would have taken me a full day to hand brush these and it would have looked pretty junky with all those louvers. 

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I'll be sharing the doors and some of the mudroom tomorrow. I'm so happy with how the doors turned out! I've been pulling out pieces of furniture to spray too, since it's so easy to change paint colors with the gun. To clean the Critter, you just rinse it out with water if you're using a water-based paint like a latex or an alkyd paint like Benjamin Moore's Advance line, which is my favorite for painting doors and furniture. If you're spraying an oil-based paint, you can just put some paint thinner in a clean Mason jar, hold your fingers over the spray hole and the vacuum hole at the top of the lid and just shake. Since the pencil part is basically just a straw, this tool cleans up really well. It might even be easier than cleaning up a paint brush (not exaggerating)!

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The finish after even just one coat is smooth and thick (it's like brushing on two or three coats of paint - that's why it uses so much paint). 

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Just like with spray cans and brushing, if you apply too much paint, you'll get drips. So far the only drip I had was with this little plant stand (so many angles with all the moulding!), but admittedly I was getting a little sloppy after spraying all those doors. :) If you use slow sweeping strokes and avoid the temptation to do a second pass over while the first coat is still wet, you won't have any drips. And you will have a beautiful factory-finish on your furniture and doors.

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I'm nominating the Critter for my best purchase of the year! Definitely a life-changing addition to my tool box.

In case you're considering one for yourself, here's the line up you'll probably want:

Critter Spray Gun (which comes with one Mason jar)
1/4" air hose
1/4" coupler set (which attaches the hose to the gun and to the air compressor)
Air compressor that pushes at least 90 PSI (I have this big one but you could get away with using a smaller, more portable one )
Extra Mason jars (these are SO worth having and using!)
Extra cork gaskets (apparently they fall apart over multiple uses)

PS If you decide to use the Benjamin Moore Advance paint that I love for spraying furniture and doors, you'll probably want to dilute the paint with about five ounces of distilled water for every gallon of paint. It's not much more liquid, but it really helps. 

40 comments:

Josie said...

Hi. Will you be doing a review of the advance paint from BM? I know you like oil paint and this is supposed to be the best of both worlds. Latex for ease of use but oil for levening purposes.

Design_Fluff said...

I think I might need this to paint the metal around my windows. Thanks for the post!

Christy said...

Hi there! I'm new to your blog and the DIY paint world! Would this gun work for painting walls or do you need something larger?

Thanks!

dailyinkling.com said...

Hi - thanks for sharing, looks good for smaller projects but wondering how heavy it is with the glass jar and paint? We recently painted our whole house using a BIG spray gun - super fast but sooo much paint in the air that we had to dress in so much protective stuff...and still ended up with paint in hair and nose!

Michelle Panting said...

This thing looks amazing! I love that you're fearless when it comes to trying out new tools. Thanks for testing this out for us, Jenny!

http://www.fullbellywornsoles.com

leigh said...

Thanks a ton!
Your advice is not only super thoughtful, but you also do the shopping legwork for us- a significant chunk of time when tackling any DIY project!

Erin | Holtwood Hipster said...

I'm going to agree with Leigh above! You took something that might intimidating for many and broke it all down. I feel like this is something I could easily tackle on my own now. Always look forward to your posts Jenny!

hambrich said...

thank you, Jenny! it's like you read my mind- I bought an air compressor second hand and needed help converting it to a paint sprayer. I am always so grateful for your ideas and inspiration. thanks for including links to your recommended products.

E said...

Thx for sharing this, looks like a neat tool. Years ago my mom had a similar gadget that attached to a canister style vacuum cleaner and worked great ! E

Shani mesa said...

how much paint and water did you put in the mason jar? ratio of distilled water to paint?

Meagan Claire said...

Jenny, you are THE BEST! I love your recommendations for spray guns/compressors. I've been thinking about it for a while (Natty by Design??) but I assumed it was a big investment for a small time DIYer. But looking at your research, I might be wrong! I will say, though, that one (of the many) things I appreciate most about your blog is that your projects are so doable for average people with average supplies. :) I really look forward to your spray gun AND paintbrush projects!

artluvr said...

Yet again, another supremely helpful post. How you're managing to share so much excellent content, while you're coping with so much real-time, is a mystery to me, but I'm grateful. One question though, can you tell us more about the spray paint booth you're using in the photos, and how we might rig one up at home?

(Eileen) a creative day said...

My favorite tool in my house is my spray gun! I like yours with the mason jars, so glad you got one!

Amy Wax said...

Great article! I have avoided using a spray gun because I have heard about it being difficult and unreliable, now I am re-inspired! Thanks for this post.. so glad I'm following your blog :) I recommend for any other DIYers using the Color911 app for help with choosing colors.. especially now that painting will be so much easier!

Mckay and Karisa said...

girl you are an amazing resource!!! thank you!

ROK said...

Do you think the critter could take on kitchen cabinets? Or do I have to go up a level?

Rita from Design Megillah said...

So glad I found your post before painting my louver doors with a paint brush! Thanks!!!

The Wits said...

I'm so glad you posted this because I recently bought the Wagner Flexio 570 paint sprayer to do our doors plus help with my furniture refurbishing career and had horrible, awful results. I will be giving this Critter a chance. Thanks!

bagfashionista said...

my compressor is out of commission recently due to a part failure and i tried to paint a shelf by hand (ikea hack) --- i wanted to shoot myself between the eyes....i used up so much paint and it looks crappy..need to sand everything down, get the compressor fixed and redo it with the spray gun. definitely worth every penny i've spent on it.

Jenny at LGN said...

Hi Josie -

I have mentioned the Advance line lots of times here. It is a really, really great product. Cleans up like a latex. When it's fully dry it looks a lot like a low sheen oil based paint. For full gloss almost lacquered look though, I still recommend dealing with the hassles of oil based painting.

Hope that helps!

Jenny at LGN said...

Christy and ROK - I am going to spray my cabinets with the Critter, but I probably won't spray my walls. I could see maybe doing a room or two, but the paint goes relatively fast. I can usually get one full coat, front and back on a door with one Mason jar.
xo

Jenny at LGN said...

dailyinkling.com - yeah, this is not a "paint your whole house" type gun. But it's perfect for painting furniture, doors and trim! It's not that heavy to hold either :)

Jenny at LGN said...

dailyinkling.com - yeah, this is not a "paint your whole house" type gun. But it's perfect for painting furniture, doors and trim! It's not that heavy to hold either :)

Jenny at LGN said...

Shani mesa - I just used a bit of distilled water. About five ounces for a gallon. But that's for the Advance paint, which is thinner than most latex paints. You should poke around online when you're trying to figure out a specific type paint. Many manufacturers suggest using a product like Penetrol or Flotrol. Hope that helps! :)

Jenny at LGN said...

Hi Artluvr,

I just hung up plastic sheeting on the walls in our living room, which has great ventilation. We don't have floors down yet, and everything's going to get painted soon anyway, so it was fine to do the painting inside. Later I'll probably rig something up in my garage or on the back porch. It's a good idea to use a space that gets good ventilation but also won't get dusty wind.

Hope that helps!

Kelly {Sparkles and Shoes} said...

This looks and sounds great - I wish I had seen this a week ago!

xx
Kelly
Sparkles and Shoes

Brittany Cramer said...

You are the BEST for posting this! I've been holding out on a spray gun for a while, I really don't have anything I need to spray just yet, but I've always wanted one! And it's such a steal! I'm definitely buying this, THANK YOU

homeon129acres said...

Ummm... this is amazing. How have I not heard of the critter before? This is so simple. And it works! I'm impressed.

Gwen, The Makerista said...

I've been wanting to paint all the doors in our house for a long time. It's always seemed really overwhelming but this makes me want to hit the "add to cart" button and take a Saturday to tackle it! (My husband will be thrilled :) ). Thanks for sharing the details, Jenny!

Laurie Drew said...

Dang! I wish I had seen this before I splurged on a paint gun! I might still have to get one just because the jar feature is so handy! What a great idea!

Suzanne said...

Thanks for the detailed list and links to the supplies! Big help, and we know how busy you are right now. Thanks for all the help and time you took to do it. Very appreciated!

kelly thompson said...

Very cute and interesting to know about- I had no idea they can come so small

Bonzo said...

Does this leave a super smooth finish? Bought a spray gun once and had to return because it just wasn't very smooth looking, almost had a really small textured look to it.
Thanks!
Bethany

papersyoulove said...

So glad to get these resources; looks like you had alot of interest yesterday. I bought it all! Just bought a vacation home and have lots of projects lined up. Am new to the DIY thing. Thanks. Enjoying your blog...good job!

Pine Tree Home said...

Thanks for this. I've been looking for a little sprayer but was leery of them. I just ordered my own Critter!

Kyla Dutcher said...

Ok you convinced me. I just added it to my amazon cart. I have 16 doors to paint and this seems like it would help me keep my sanity. I don't know why, but I've always been so scared of paint sprayers. Thanks for the recommendation!

Sydnie Cunningham said...

I love the wave switch with the bronze plate.

And I'm getting a new apartment, so I would use them in the living room!

www.carolynsmithdesigns.com said...

Hi Jenny,
I love this little sprayer so much I shared it with my readers on my Shout Out Friday! http://www.carolynsmithdesigns.com/shout-out-friday-7/

Great post!

Katerina said...

This is so fabulous, Jenny. I've been fantasizing about painting my kitchen cabinets, which are a clear stained maple. However the sides are a faux wood material and I'm nervous about tackling that project. I'm hoping you have a how-to for repainting kitchen cabinets on here.

marbella said...

Jenny, thanks so much for this post. I'm (hopefully) about to start spraying the built in cabinets we've been working on, once my husband gets home with a new air compressor. Wanted to leave a comment to let anyone looking at this know, that the actual specs of a compressor required are at least: 3/4 HP, that can produce 3 CFM @ 90 PSI (or higher). I looked at my little 1/3 HP pancake and saw that it was capable of 110 PSI and so thought I could use that. Set everything up and tried to spray - nothing came out. So now awaiting a new compressor so I can get spraying!

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